In the News
Odessa American: Undermining our system
By Mona Charen
When Democrats speak of “dark money,” they are creating a bogeyman. Here’s what they’re referring to: When nonprofits like Planned Parenthood, trade associations or the NRA (i.e., groups that devote more than 50 percent of their activities to nonpolitical matters) spend money on political messaging, they do not have to disclose their donors (except funds earmarked for that particular ad).
As former FEC Chairman Brad Smith explains, this represents a small fraction of total campaign spending. In 2012, it was 4.3 percent. In 2016, it’s coming in at under 3 percent. We know how much they spend, because they must report it. We know what they represent, or in the case of a group like Americans for Prosperity, we can easily find out. And nothing in the Citizens United decision altered disclosure requirements…
Donald Trump again signaled his contempt for democratic norms by declining to say he’d respect the results of the election. But Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, who stoke mistrust by falsely spinning conspiracy theories of illegitimate, dark forces controlling our system are also to blame for the parlous state of social trust in America.
By Nell Minow
The problem is that the Supreme Court did not make corporate political contributions contingent on disclosure…
No one has thought more deeply and meaningfully about this problem than the man who created the modern mutual fund system, Vanguard founder John Bogle. He supports “proxy access,” giving investors the right to propose alternate candidates for the board of directors. He supports transparency, disclosure of the process, amount, and recipients of corporate political contributions. And Bogle supports a proposal for an SEC rule that would require companies to disclose their spending in politics. That proposal has received a staggering and unprecedented number of comments in support from more than 1.2 million Americans. But it is stalled now because Congress cut off funding to move it forward – apparently due to exactly the kind of undisclosed corporate political contributions the rule would make public.
Dangers of Disclosure
Charleston Post and Courier: Silicon Valley doesn’t want to hear free speech from the right
By Debra J. Saunders
Two years ago, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced to resign because it had been reported that he had given $1,000 to the campaign to pass Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure approved by California voters that prohibited same-sex marriage. (Later the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality.)
Now Silicon Valley activists are targeting Peter Thiel, because the controversial venture capitalist and a board member for Facebook donated $1.25 million to a super PAC that supports Donald Trump…
Ellen Pao, a co-founder of Project Include, which is supposed to promote diversity in the tech world, said Thiel’s big donation prodded her group to sever ties with tech incubator Y Combinator, where Thiel is a part-time partner.
Philadelphia Media Network: Homes in Sen. Pat Toomey’s neighborhood vandalized with anti-GOP graffiti
By Nick Vadala
Several homes located near the residence of Sen. Pat Toomey in Zionsville, Pa. were vandalized with anti-GOP graffiti over the weekend in what Toomey called an “appalling” incident…
The graffiti consisted of messages insulting the Republican party and Toomey, and included phrases such as “Nazi, Slavers, Rapists, Cross Worshippers = GOP,” “Look Out Toomey And You Neo Nazi Republicans,” and “#Americans Against The Republican Party.”
“That was just appalling. There’s just absolutely no place for that,” Toomey said at a campaign stop Tuesday morning in Northeast Philadelphia. “You know, these were my neighbors and good friends and wonderful people and it’s just a shame that some politically motivated people would do something like that, it’s really, really despicable.”
Candidates and Campaigns
By Matea Gold
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has no further high-dollar fundraising events planned for the remainder of the campaign, dealing another serious blow to the GOP’s effort to finance its get-out-the-vote operation before Election Day.
Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s national finance chairman, said in an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday that Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the party and the campaign, held its last formal fundraiser on Oct. 19. The luncheon was in Las Vegas on the day of the final presidential debate.
“We’ve kind of wound down,” Mnuchin said, referring to formal fundraisers. “But the online fundraising continues to be strong.”
Wall Street Journal: Fundraising by Pro-Clinton Super PAC Accelerates in Final Weeks
By Rebecca Ballhaus
The super PAC backing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton accelerated its fundraising pace in the first three weeks of October, raising $18 million, a spokesman said Tuesday.
The haul left the group, Priorities USA Action, with $15.2 million to spend in the final two weeks before Election Day. All told, the group raised $173 million from the beginning of the election cycle through Oct. 19…
The super PAC has reserved about $20 million in TV advertising for the last two weeks before the election, according to a media buyer. It has far outpaced groups supporting Republican Donald Trump on the air.
Mr. Trump’s allied super PACs have raised far less than Priorities to date.
Dark money groups aren’t responsible for the leap in spending this cycle – at least, not judging by what they’ve reported to the FEC. At least $132 million has been spent by entities that don’t disclose their donors, compared to $232 million at this point in 2012, according to reports by these 501(c) nonprofit entities to the agency. The drop carries across both the presidential and congressional races, but is more stark in the former. In 2012, dark money groups had reported spending about $95 million in the presidential race as of Oct. 24; the total in 2016 is just half that, $48 million. Dark money spending in Senate and House races has dropped from $130 million at this point in 2012 to $83 million.
By Michael Isikoff
Among the nuggets from the hacked emails posted by WikiLeaks is new evidence that, from the start, Clinton and her campaign operatives were plotting to aggressively exploit the loopholes in federal campaign laws by steering large sums of unregulated cash into supposedly independent super-PACs like Priorities USA.
Campaign officials spoke of setting up and staffing Priorities USA, arranged to have “big guns” like Bill Clinton featured at its fundraising events and offered detailed instructions, including proposed scripts, on how Clinton fundraisers should urge donors to cut checks for Priorities USA and other officially preferred super-Pacs…
On the campaign trail, Clinton continues to decry the influence of Citizens United – the 2010 Supreme Court decision that ushered in the era of super-Pacs, which collect checks from donors, corporations and labor unions in unlimited amounts and then spend the money on campaign ads.
NJ Advance Media: Trump’s ethics plan: 5 problems with his vow to ‘drain the swamp’
By Jonathan D. Salant
Trump has spent the last week proposing ways to reduce the influence of lobbyists in the nation’s capital.
“It is time to drain the swamp in Washington,” Trump said at an Oct. 17 rally in Green Bay, Wis.
He called for banning executive branch officials, members of Congress and congressional staffs from lobbying the government for five years; expanding the definition of lobbyist to require consultants and advisers to register; banning senior executive branch officials for life from lobbying for foreign governments; stopping registered foreign lobbyists from raising money in elections; and limiting congressional tenure.
Several campaign finance and ethics experts, however, said Trump’s proposals fell far short of what was needed. Here’s why…
Washington Public Radio KUOW: Are boosters of that Citizens United initiative just dreaming?
By David Hyde
The idea is to bring back certain limits on political spending. And it’s not just for corporations – the initiative would include groups like The Sierra Club or the N.R.A. as well as corporations and unions because, as Turner puts it, “money is not speech.” I-735 opponents like Paul Guppy disagree. He’s with the Washington Policy Center, a think tank in Washington State that promotes free market solutions…
“Giving more power to the government to restrict our speech, which is what initiative 735 is trying to move towards, is not something that I would agree with. The antidote to speech you don’t agree with is more speech.”
Specifically, Guppy advocates “competition in the marketplace of ideas. Joining together with others to raise money and combat big corporations or whatever message that you’re hearing that you don’t agree with to put out an alternative message.”
By Scott Canon
A proposed amendment to the state constitution would put the first cap on campaign donations for races in Missouri since 2008…
Amendment 2 would limit the amount a person could give to a candidate for the General Assembly, statewide office or the judiciary at $2,600 per election cycle. It also would cap donations to a political party at $25,000.
Finally, it would bar direct donations to campaigns by corporations or labor unions and stop political action committees from shifting funds to one another to obscure the original source of money…
Critics of the change have argued that campaign contributions are a form of free speech and that the state’s existing regulations make it clear where candidates get their campaign money.
Rapid City Journal: South Dakota voters have choices to reshape state government
By James Nord
Ryan did vote for Initiated Measure 22, which would allow voters to tap a state fund to send two $50 credits to participating political candidates, tighten campaign finance and lobbying laws, and create an ethics commission.
Opponents have argued in several venues – radio, mailers, phone calls and canvassing – that public campaign financing would pull state resources from other priorities. The opposition includes Americans For Prosperity-South Dakota, the state Retailers Association and the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Don Frankenfeld, a former GOP state senator who co-chairs the main group backing the plan, said it would fight corruption, hold politicians accountable and make elections more transparent. Supporters spent over $100,000 on TV advertising last week, he said.
“There’s no reason for a Republican in South Dakota to oppose political reform or to favor the potential for corruption,” he said.